|Built in 1912, Registered February 1978|
6521 W State Road 84
After many abortive public and private efforts at draining the Everglades, the State of Florida in 1905 established the Everglades Drainage District. Drainage controls for the Everglades were established with the aid of the Furst-Clark Construction Company of Baltimore, Maryland, in the construction of several locks along the North New River, South New River, the Miami and the Gulf Coast canals. Lock No. 1 became operational in March, 1912. The opening of the lock led to an increased agricultural exploitation of the newly drained land along the New River Canal. Boats traversed the distance between Lake Okeechobee and Ft. Lauderdale in groups. This action made the trip go faster because more than one boat could use the lock concurrently, which made its use more efficient.
Also known as the Sewell Lock and the Broward Memorial Lock, Lock No. 1 is located on the North New River Canal, south of Plantation on State Road 84 just west of the Davie Road Extension. It was built for the Everglades Drainage District and was constructed by the Furst-Clark Construction Company. It is a 149 feet long single lock. The entry was controlled by wooden gates. It was designed to allow increased agricultural activity along the New River Canal.
“The Everglades drainage program which was begun in 1905 has probably had a greater historical and continued impact on South Florida than any other single factor. One of the canals, the North New River Canal, was, in the early years, a major transportation artery between Fort Lauderdale and Lake Okeechobee. In order to make the canal useful for transportation, locks had to be constructed. Lock No. 1 at the south end of the canal was the first to be built in South Florida.”
“The opening of the lock led to an increased agricultural exploitation of the newly drained land along the New River Canal. Produce grown in this area and around Lake Okeechobee was brought down the canal through the locks to the railroad in Fort Lauderdale. An even more important cargo was Okeechobee catfish. New River was lined with fish houses, overhanging the river. The fish were brought down by small launches in box-like cabins. Boats traversed the distance between the lake and Fort Lauderdale in groups. This made the trip go faster since more than one boat could get into the hand-operated lock and thus make it more efficient.
“The locks also made it possible for small steamboats to operate on a regular basis between Fort Lauderdale and the lake as well as Fort Myers via the Caloosahatchee River. Regular scheduled steamers included the Suwanee, Lily and Passing Thru. These boats carried passengers, cargo and tourists up and down the river. By 1926 the canals had shoaled to the point that boat traffic was no longer practical and the waterway had been replaced by a railroad and highway as the primary transportation artery to and from the lake. That year the locks were closed permanently and allowed to deteriorate due to the lack of use.”
The Broward County Historical Commission worked with the site’s owner, the South Florida Water Management District, Department of Natural Resources, to get the lock listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The boat lock had been inoperative for many years but was in remarkably good condition at the time. In the early 1990s the Historical Commission worked with the county division of Engineering, the state’s Department of Transportation and South Florida Water Management District, Department of Natural Resources to have the lock restored and a park created on the site. It stands today as a reminder of the importance of the great drainage project to the development of South Florida.